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The Windsor agreement deserves to be exiled


THE sheer cynicism of our Prime Minister is quite something. The Windsor Agreement indeed! More like the Duke of Windsor Agreement: something that should have been exiled a long time ago.

Sure, the problem dates to Theresa May and the Remain Parliament who conspired to neuter Brexit at birth, yet Sunak’s agreement on Monday is in some ways worse than what went before. Before we address what is worse, let’s look at what may be better.

The devil is in the detail but undoubtedly this agreement will reduce the amount of paperwork between the mainland UK and Northern Ireland. That in itself is an extraordinary comment. Would France tolerate paperwork to sell a tomato or an aspirin between Provence and Corsica? Bien sûr que non!

To our elite, however, such arrangements are an administrative headache, not a point of principle, and doubtless some goods will flow more freely with less paperwork. So VAT on alcoholic beverages sold for immediate consumption in pubs etc (on trade) will be controlled by Westminster, but VAT on alcohol sold by supermarkets etc (off sales) will be controlled by Brussels. Changes like this deserve only half a cheer.

That’s about all that can be said for it, however, and in one critical respect this deal is much worse than Johnson’s deal. Much worse, because the agreement is set in fabled international law so desired by the Establishment as they know it makes unlocking it oh so hard.

There was a break in Johnson’s deal, imperfect as that was. We had the legal right to rip it up. Sunak’s deal cannot easily be broken as the EU authority over Northern Ireland and critically the sole authority of its Court of Justice will be embedded in international law. The theoretical break of the Northern Ireland Assembly is indeed theoretical and a fig leaf of acceptability

Worse, as our elite always intended, the Trojan Horse of the Northern Ireland agreement, now completely inappropriately rebadged the Windsor Agreement, remains just that, a Trojan Horse but reinforced by the stronger timbers of international law.

Now, should mainland UK deviate from EU law, as was the whole point of Brexit, it creates a hard border with Northern Ireland thus making it, even if in some long distant day a Government was minded, very difficult to do so. This is all about ensuring the UK is in lock-step to EU law with a minimum of deviation.

That is why Sunak’s deal, hailed as a miracle of negotiation, is nothing of the sort. It’s simply the intended long-term trap.

One must marvel at the sheer brass neck of the apparatus of the State. Despite three clear instructions from the British people – in 2016 with the Leave vote, then the Conservatives’ drubbing in the 2019 EU Parliamentary elections when their vote fell to an extraordinary 8.8 per cent of the electorate, followed by Johnson’s ‘get Brexit done’ 80-seat majority – the fight-back of the unrepresentative few ensuring the country’s democratic will counts for near naught is quite something.

Now, however, the political narrative has conveniently changed. Brexit has been a ‘disaster’:

‘We told you so. Growth has collapsed, trade foundered and it’s all your fault – but we are in control and will smooth it, so don’t worry. This deal with the EU is both a triumph and so dull and boring at the same time. It’s called Windsor so it’s good, forget it though.’

What is odd, though, is that when the media parrot what an unarguable disaster Brexit has been, no one can say what laws have changed relative to the EU since Brexit – and why, if they haven’t changed, it has been so calamitous. When we published Catherine McBride’s paper showing Brexit had not caused a temporary fall in UK trade (it was the pandemic lockdowns actually) broadcasters struggled to find anti-Brexit economists willing to debate with her.

Moreover, Brexit opponents forget to mention that the state, their state, has grown from 35 per cent of GDP under Blair to 48 per cent today, with taxes rising to boot. They forget to mention the impact of a decade of printing £895billion through QE with near zero interest rates until very recently, and they forget the total waste of £450billion over lockdown and the subsequent failure of the public sector and uprooting of society from the needless and immoral closure of the economy for nigh on two years.

It’s always someone else to blame. Brexit is the convenient political whipping boy for their multiple failures when it is clear to anyone with any understanding that Brexit has so far been immaterial either way. Immaterial, as nothing has changed, indeed where it has changed it has got worse as the UK has actually converged with the EU on tax, on the size of the state and has trumped the EU on regulation, in each case the exact opposite of the instruction of the electorate.

Brexit remains an opportunity, but for that we need an establishment that believes in this country, believes in the people and acts on its belief. I live in hope!

This article appeared in Global Britain on February 28, 2023, and is republished by kind permission. 

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Ewen Stewart
Ewen Stewart
Ewen Stewart is a City economist who runs the consultancy Walbrook Economics. He is director of the think tank Global Britain and his work is widely published in economics and political journals.

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